I could tell that this was going to be different when I arrived at Balham tube station. There were three times the number of people on the platform than you’d normally expect on a Saturday lunchtime. By the time we changed tubes at Kennington the must have been two hundred of us. When I got off at Embankment I was immediately engulfed in a sea of humanity.
The whole day was amazing. It took five hours to walk from Embankment to Hyde Park. The atmosphere on the march was incredible. I think that everyone was stunned by the numbers taking part. Of course, being in the crowd, it’s impossible to get a real feel for the size – but there were people as far as I could see in every direction. When I got to Hyde Park Corner, it was possible to look back along the length of Piccadilly where I could still see people in Piccadilly Circus.
It was just the numbers, but also the range of types of people that was impressive. Of course the usual “professional protesters” were there, but their numbers were completely dwarfed by the incredible numbers of “normal” people who had finally decided they needed to make their feelings known.
I was far too late for most of the speakers at the rally. I think that Bianca Jagger was just finishing as I arrived. Then Ken Livingstone spoke his usual sense and he was followed by Jesse Jackson who tried to turn the whole thing into an evangelical revival meeting (not sure what the Muslims in the crowd thought about that).
Tessa Jowell was right about the grass in Hyde Park though. It’s completely buggered now. I saw two aging hippies imploring the masses to keep to the paths and respect the gardens. They were completely ignored.
As I walked back to Victoria station I passed a number of the coaches that were going to take the protesters home. At least three of them had signs in the window declaring that they were transport for the “war rally”. Which I thought missed the point in a spectacular way.
I’ve put my photos of the day online.